Every Wednesday we'll take a look at whose stock on the Penn State women's volleyball team is rising, falling or flat. Here goes:
Digging/Passing- Rising: Ali Longo, Micha Hancock and Dominque Gonzalez, among others, kept Penn State alive in their match with Illinois. While 99 digs doesn’t say much about their efficiency, that is still too crazy an amount of digs in one match too ignore. And they were all evenly distributed as follows: Longo (24), Hancock (19), Gonzalez (14), McClendon (11), Fuller (9), Scott (9), Grant (5), Carpenter (4), Whitney (2), Kabbes (1), Slay (1). To have that many players contributing in the second line of defense is certainly an advantage for the Lions against any team, especially No. 1 Illinois.
Nia Grant- Rising: Grant was the only Penn State player to hit greater than .200 against the Fighting Illini, regardless of attacks. She hit an even .500 on 16 attacks. Those are really solid numbers for the freshman middle hitter backing up Katie Slay. She also tallied 2.5 blocks. Her presence in the middle is useful to the team in many ways. Rose usually puts her in to add some height up front with Slay or to cycle into the front row when Slay cycles into the back.
Micha Hancock- Rising: With seven aces in one match, it’s hard to to not trend up. Hancock is one the Big Ten’s most offensive setters, leading the NCAA with 0.82 aces per set. She is always willing to attack, too, whether or not that’s to Russ Rose’s liking. It’s her sets she needs to work on, especially to Slay and McClendon. With that in mind, Hancock is by no means a bad setter, so this Wednesday Trends-day reporter will overlook that in terms of her stock... for now. Her serves and her attacks pump up the crowd and the team way more than her sets, anyway.
Deja McClendon- Falling: McClendon hit .060 on 50 attacks against the Illini -- that number should say it all. McClendon didn’t hit like this last year or in the beginning of this year, and I don’t expect her to continue hitting this poorly. She’s already proven how dominant she can be. Still, her final hitting percentage last year (.331) doesn’t compare to what it is so far this year (.236). In other words, Deja is landing nearly 10 percent less of her attacks for kills.
Aiyana Whitney- Falling: Whitney’s 29 attacks against Illinois were her second-most of the season. She converted only four of those for kills and six for errors -- two of which were crucial lost points at the end of the fifth game. The result: a -.060 hitting percentage.
Ariel Scott- Flat: Unlike McClendon, Scott was not a starter last year. The spot she plays now once belonged to Blair Brown, and the difference in experience has been apparent. Still, Scott has matured as an opposite over the course of the season, and that will likely continue as she sees more and more attacks. She set a career-high 27 kills on 74 attacks against Illinois, but with 13 errors, she hit only .189. We’ve seen flashes of Scott’s inner beast when she looks likes an incredibly fierce and overwhelming hitter. Her next step is to harness that beast.